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Digital Tapestry: Manufacturing's Magic Carpet Ride

Posted By Sue Pelletier, June 03, 2015 at 9:38 PM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

Dennis Little, Vice President of Production with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, appeared to be rightly proud of what his company is accomplishing with its Digital Tapestry, an initiative that combines virtual reality development environments, 3D printing, and end-to-end digital processes to reduce product cycle time, decrease costs, and fuel future product development by feeding back data in a continuous loop. As he explained it, the process starts with conceptualization, moves through design and analysis, then on to simulation and optimization, manufacturing, assembly, test and launch. As he said, it's all about turning data into things, then things into data that can feed back into a new mission.

See thisĀ Dialogue with Little in a recent issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal for how the Digital Tapestry works. Especially cool, in every sense of the word, is the CHIL, or Collaborative Human Immersive Laboratory, where design engineers, manufacturing engineers, technicians, suppliers, quality engineers, and anyone else associated with a concept can experience it in 3D simulation and discover any issues that need to be addressed before any physical production takes place).

The technology is amazing, no doubt about it. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is engineering new horizons through its Digital Tapestry, especially how it's using the system to find ways to reduce the cycle time needed to build a satellite or reduce the weight of an antenna reflector. But as the videos he showed us made amply clear, it only works if every employee can keep each thread in the tapestry unbroken throughout the process. And that means fostering collaborative relationships throughout the enterprise, one example of which is bringing all the disparate teams together to work in the CHIL cave to work out any kinks pre-production.

Toward that end, Little showed a few of the videos his company uses to help bridge gaps in employee mindsets and develop a more collaborative culture--especially inspiring was the last he showed, of the NASA Orion mission, which drew actual gasps from those seated at my table.

Technology is an important part of the answer to today's manufacturing challenges, but, as he so eloquently said, so is "Finding a way to put heart in your art."

Written by Sue Pelletier

I am a contributing editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Journal.

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